Friday, July 30, 2010

Listening, just listening.

Given the "meh" that I'm feeling of late, I haven't really wanted to do much of anything. This goes for the wash or the dishes. I have nearly finished reading the ghost book and I've gone through several magazines this month. But, beyond that, I have to force myself to do things and that includes playing the game I enjoy.

One of the most commented upon things about the Internet is how it turns ordinary, fine, upstanding people into insensitive jerks because they feel the anonymity of the Internet gives them a freedom to behave badly. It's called the "Penny Arcade theory", after the web site that drew a corresponding comic to illustrate this. Don't check this out if you are offended by language. I'm giving you the "G" rated version of the comic.

In this game, the "I don't have to be nice to you because you don't know who I am" mentality is on display in all its flamboyant colors. Social decorum often doesn't exist and while you may be the nicest person in your neighborhood when I'm face-to-face with you, put you behind a computer screen and allow you to manipulate pixels and you turn into a raving lunatic. Any sense of societal norms for behavior can go out the window. Some people pride themselves on their malicious and obnoxious behavior.

In my guild, I don't tolerate that. It's not that I think any of my guild members would hunt me down if I cursed and swore and generally treated them ill, I just can't. It's not who I am. I can't, even in a fake universe, be anything more than who I am. One of those facets is a good listener.

This became evident last night and it serves to make me aware of my life. I logged onto the game on a character that is only used to monitor the guild bank. That is all it does; clear, clean, rearrange, restock and sell items for the bank. Some people know that it's me behind the toon; some do not, which can lead to amusing exchanges. Within the span of 5 minutes, I had 2 guild members requesting private conversation with me. "Is this you?" When I assured one of them it was, s/he said s/he had to tell me some things because it could affect his/her play.

For the next 15 minutes, while I sat at my computer, I read two stories of personal anguish. I guarantee to my guild members that if they tell me something they want held in confidence, I do just that. All I will say is I sat there, asking questions and thinking, "Wow". It certainly was the proverbial wake-up call.

I have been feeling a bit of the "poor-me" syndrome. I'm frustrated with the inability to right my financial ship and how, just when I think things might get better, I'm slapped with something else that needs me to throw money at it in order to fix it. I'm getting tired of that. I would like to be able to do something just for me instead of delaying things because I have to pay the gas bill. It's just so damn frustrating. (Yes, I swore. In this context, it's appropriate.)

But when I fall into this "poor-me" pothole, to use a metaphor explored before, life has a way of saying, "Are you sure that's a deep hole?" I have nothing on what I was told last night. I have two cats who love me, a job, a house, food on my table, a wonderful daughter and amazing friends. I could afford to fix my car and it has to go back on Monday, but I can afford that repair, too. While I can't pay everything for the umteenth month in a row, it seems, I think I have found someone to help me organize things and get them on the right track. I'm trying. I have not given up. Some people in my guild, people I would never recognize walking down the street, have life a whole lot worse than me.

I provided some minor suggestions when asked but mostly I just listened. It kind of drained me, to read of the troubles people are enduring, slogging through. I realized that this is something I do well, just listen. Yes, I can be opinionated and insert my ideas where they haven't always been wanted. But, for the most part, I just listen. I came to understand that these people were confiding in me because the person that I have portrayed in this anonymous guild is someone they felt they could trust with truly intimate details of lives currently awry.

I don't have much to give my friends. I think about what I would do with a massive lottery winning. My family and friends would get some to use as they wanted. And I often wish, as I listen to the tales, that I could flip open the checkbook and write a check. When they are wondering how they can put gas in their car or buy school supplies or pet food, I wish I could ride in on a white horse and say, "Here's $1,000. I hope that helps." Instead, all I can do is listen.

I realized last night, sometimes, that's the best thing in the world to give.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


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